Leicester is very privileged in having one of the best preserved timber framed halls in the country, dating back six hundred years.
A History of Use
The Guildhall has had many uses and lives. The Great Hall itself was built in about 1390 as a meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi (a small but powerful group of businessman and gentry). Over the next hundred years the Great Hall was extended and the two wings at either end added.
By the end of the 14th century the corporation of Leicester had begun to meet in the Guildhall. When the Guild was dissolved in 1548 the Corporation bought the buildings for the sum of £25 15s 4d!
In 1632 the Town Library was moved into the East Wing of the Guildhall from St Martin' s Church. It is the third oldest public library in the country. At about the same time the ground floor of the West Wing was refurbished as the Mayor's Parlour.
The Great Hall was often used as a courtroom and a jury Room was created above the Mayor's Parlour. The Guildhall was also used regularly for theatrical performances, banquets and civic events.
With the growth of the town and the expansion of local government functions in the 19th century it became increasingly clear that, as a town hall, the Guildhall was far too small.
After much debate a new Town Hall was built on Horse Fair and opened in 1876. For the next fifty years the Guildhall was used for several purposes including the headquarters of the local police and a school. It became very dilapidated and there were even calls for its demolition as an eyesore!
Fortunately, the council decided to restore the building and following a major renovation programme it was opened to the public as a museum in 1926.
Today, The Guildhall is best known as an excellent performance venue, attracting acts from across the country, and as a museum where visitors can step back in time and come face to face with 'Crankie Gemmie' and 'Emma Smith', two of Leicester's notorious pick-pockets who can be found lurking within the Victorian police cells.
The Guildhall is reputedly Leicester's most haunted building - five ghosts have been reported in total.
February - November
Saturday – Wednesday 11.00am to 4.30pm,
Sunday 1.00pm to 4.30pm.
Open on certain Thursdays and Fridays for children's activities during school holidays.
Open December - January for special events and private hire. Also open for school and community groups by prior appointment.
Tel: 0116 253 2569
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